The action of The Tempest play takes place on an island in the Mediterranean. The enchanted island, inhabited by spirits, full of strange sounds and music,  is the setting for a magical drama of loss, love and reconciliation. Read more about The Tempest settings.

Date written: 1611

Genre classificationThe Tempest does not conform to any of Shakespeare’s usual play genres.

Read the full, original The Tempest text

Read The Tempest in simple, modern English

Main characters in The Tempest: Prospero, the Duke of Milan, overthrown by his brother, Antonio, lives on the island with his Daughter, Miranda after having been put into a boat and pushed out to sea 12 years before. During that time he has studied magic and now controls the island through that art.

Prospero causes a shipwreck as his brother, Antonio, with a party of other dignitaries is returning from a wedding in Tunis.

Alonso, the King of Naples, helped Antonio to depose Prospero. With him is his villainous brother, Sebastian and his son, Ferdinand, who falls in love with Miranda the moment he sets eyes on her. The other members of the party are Gonzalo, an old courtier of Milan, the man who tried to help Prospero and Miranda after the coup and two of Alonso’s courtiers, Adrian and Francisco.

Prospero has two servants: Ariel, a delicate and bird-like spirit who is invisible, except to his master and he performs magical tasks for him, and Caliban, a misshapen monster, the son of the wicked witch Sycorax, who died before Prospero arrived on the island.

Trinculo, Alonso’s jester and Stephano, his butler, have also survived the wreck.

There are three goddesses who make an appearance on the island – Iris, Ceres and Juno. See a full list of characters in The Tempest.

The Tempest themes:  The play is about forgiveness and reconciliation as Prospero forgives all those who have wronged him and his daughter, and returns to resume his Dukedom in Milan. In a more postmodern fashion the play is concerned with itself as a play. With its theatrical illusions and disguises, and the action directed by the main character, Prospero, it explores theatrical production.

Magic was a taboo subject in Shakespeare’s time, with withces and other occultists routinely burnt at the stake. Shakespeare is exploring the potential of magic for good rather than evil.

Other themes are civilization versus nature; authority, and, as usual in Shakespeare, appearance and reality.

The Tempest Play Resources:

The Tempest characters
The Tempest settings
Modern English The Tempest ebook
The Tempest plot summary
The Tempest for Kids ebook

3 replies
  1. Jade Craggy
    Jade Craggy says:

    In school we did an argument about whether Caliban was a man or a monster I was arguing that he was a man and I feel that even though he was treated very badly many humans today are treated like that so that is no reason to say he is a monster also saying that he is a monster just because he looks different is faulse and mean.

    Reply
  2. Mark H.
    Mark H. says:

    Two minor errors in the description:
    - The character is “Gonzalo”, not “Gonzago.”
    - Prospero and his daughter came to the island 12 years before, not 15. Miranda, the daughter, is at the time of the action, approximately 15 years old, but she was three at the time of the banishment.

    Reply

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